How to take care of your oral health, naturally
A healthy mouth and smile is not only how you greet the world but an indicator of your age and overall wellbeing. Tooth discoloration, enamel wear and decay are preventable and can be kept at bay with a wholesome diet, specific nutrients and a few age-old beauty practices that you can easily weave into your daily routine.
What causes poor oral health?
There are a number of factors that can contribute to poor oral health; the leading cause however is generally tooth decay. This is often a diet-related disease caused by the bacteria in your mouth converting sugar into energy and producing acid as a waste product, which gradually eats away at your teeth.
Beauty begins on the inside, so by changing a few dietary and lifestyle habits you can reduce the risk of tooth discoloration and decay.
By removing sugar from your diet you drastically reduce the food supply for the bacteria living on your teeth. Refined sugar is found in lollies, soft drinks, sports drinks, concentrated fruit juices, baked goods, sweetened yoghurts, salad dressings, condiments and a number of other processed foods. The best way to avoid refined sugar is to enjoy wholefoods, meaning food that comes from the earth in its whole form such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, animal protein and healthy fats.
Coffee is very acidic and, in excess, any acidic food can cause tooth enamel erosion, resulting in thin and brittle teeth. Additionally, an excess of coffee can cause tooth staining. Why not switch out your second cup of coffee for a herbal tea, spiced ginger and turmeric latte or a matcha instead?
Alcohol is acidic and often contains high amounts of sugar, both of which lead to tooth decay. Similarly to coffee, an excess of alcohol can cause tooth discoloration.
People who smoke have a higher risk of developing gum disease, oral cancer, tooth loss, tooth and root decay and stained teeth compared to non-smokers. Additionally, smoking depletes the immune system, reducing the body’s ability to fight off infection in the mouth and body and leading to premature ageing.
Citrus fruits are packed full of vitamins and antioxidants that are wonderful for your health; however, they are very acidic, which can erode tooth enamel making your teeth more vulnerable to decay. After enjoying citrus fruit, wash your mouth out with water to reduce acid build-up.
Natural ways to improve oral health
In addition to brushing and flossing regularly to remove plaque and food build-up from your teeth, there are a number of nutrients and other age-old practices that you can add into your beauty routine to improve the health of your mouth.
Eat nutrient-rich foods
Just as your hair, skin and nails require vitamins and minerals to function properly and look their best, so do your teeth, tongue and gums. Be sure to include the following nutrients in your diet.
- Calcium helps harden your enamel and strengthen your jawbone. Find it in milk, cheese, yoghurt, almonds, broccoli and salmon.
- Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium while boosting bone mineral density. Your body makes vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, so aim for 15 minutes a day. Additionally it can be obtained by eating fatty fish, canned tuna and portobello mushrooms.
- Potassium improves bone mineral density. Enjoy bananas, lima beans, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
- Phosphorus supports calcium in building strong bones and teeth. Obtained from all types of seafood, lentils and pumpkin seeds.
- Vitamin K helps block substances that break down bone and helps the body produce osteocalcin, a protein that supports bone strength. It is obtained from leafy greens, parsley, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
- Vitamin C strengthens your gums and the soft tissue in your mouth. Citrus fruits, potatoes and leafy greens are all high in vitamin C.
- Vitamin A helps keep mucous membranes healthy and encourages healing. Enjoy fish, egg yolks, liver and leafy green vegetables.
Drinking water helps to flush away food debris and bacteria from teeth and gums, dilutes harmful acid caused by bacteria in the mouth and promotes saliva production, which keeps teeth strong by washing them with beneficial minerals. Women should aim to drink around 2.7 litres of water a day while men should drink 3.7 litres.
Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic practice to support the removal of toxins from the body and improve oral health. Oil pulling involves swishing around one tablespoon of a high-quality oil (such as sesame or coconut oil) in your mouth for 10 to 20 minutes first thing in the morning and then spitting it out. The understanding is that the oil breaks down and dissolves the bacteria in your mouth and on your teeth.
A study on 60 adults showed that oil pulling with coconut oil for 10 minutes every day significantly reduced the number of bacteria in saliva in as little as two weeks, compared to distilled water.
Another age-old Ayurvedic remedy to help remove toxins from the body and improve oral health, tongue scraping involves scraping your tongue with a U-shaped tool (that you can buy from chemists or online — I like Keeko’s range of natural oral products) from the back to the front of your tongue first thing in the morning to remove built-up bacteria. Research has shown that after just seven days of tongue scraping morning and night, bacteria associated with periodontal disease and oral malodour were significantly reduced.